Kiss the Black Cat -
As Legato stopped in front of me, I started speaking before he had a chance to say anything.
「Many thanks for your help. Squad Commander-dono is truly worthy of praise. You showed superb skills when capturing the two assassins.」
When I praised him from my heart, Legato replied modestly「No, I still have a long way to go.」and once again looked at me with a questioning gaze. I knew what Legato wanted to ask, but I kept quiet.
Seeing me like that, Legato opened his mouth hesitantly.
「…You really saved me just now. If Nidel-dono hadn’t been present, I might not have been able to protect the prince.」
「No, it is I who should say so.」
「Nidel-dono can use offensive magic too, I see.」
At Legato’s words, I looked at his face, raising my eyebrows.
「The Tech Order consist of magicians after all. Of course we can use it. We just aren’t fond of actual fighting.」
「No, that wasn’t what I meant…You saved me with your wonderful discernment.」
I’d spoken to Legato in a slightly curt tone, incorrectly assuming that he was making a negative remark. Truly, I was happy being praised by Legato. I was proud that even though I was a magician, I could be helpful to this man.
However, I had quite a guilty conscience. I should have just revealed my identity to Legato in the early stages of the guard. If I’d done so, the weight on his shoulders would have reduced and the both of us could have also taken proper countermeasures.
I didn’t do so because I did not want to lose my privileges as a 「Cat」, I wanted to be thought of as a 「Cat」by Legato. I now realized that I’d prioritised my personal feelings and regretted my actions; if anything had happened to either the prince or to Legato, even regretting wouldn’t have been enough.
Upon seeing me suddenly fall silent after laughing, Legato appeared troubled.
「Um…Also, Nidel-dono, I saw you transform from the cat, was that cat Nidel-dono?」
Since he had seen me return to my human form, I nodded truthfully.
「What do you mean by ‘since when?’」
I, not understanding what he meant, tilted my head to the side.
「When did you switch places with it? Your timing was great, did you know that they’d attack today?」
After hearing Legato’s marvelling voice, I understood. Legato thought that I was aware of the existence of a cat by the prince’s side, and had switched places with it just for today.
「Right from the beginning.」
「…Right from the beginning?」
「The black cat was me from the first day. 」
When I said that, Legato, after making a flabbergasted expression for a few seconds, widened his eyes in realization.
「Um…By that you mean, from before I began my guard duties?」
「That’s right. I approached the prince a day earlier than Squad Commander-dono.」
「But…that means you’ve been here everyday for around a month?」
「Yes. That’s why I’d said before that I hadn’t slept for about two weeks.」
When I chuckled, Legato with his eyes still wide open, muttered 「I see… so that’s the case…」. Legato was quite honest, and as a consequence, his reactions were easy to perceive. That’s why everyone ended up teasing him despite themselves.
I smiled at Legato, who was still in a daze.
「Squad Commander-dono was of great help. Thanks to that I was able to complete my bodyguard duties without a hitch. I’m grateful.」
「No, I’m the one who ought to say that.」
「I was quite doted on, thank you very much.」
When I laughed in a teasing manner, Legato once again opened his eyes wide, and after letting his gaze shakily wander, had an awkward expression. I saw the ears peeping out of his refreshing and neat hair turn red. When I saw those ears, those lips of mine curled up a bit more.
「Many thanks for your efforts. Please, take care of yourself.」
I said so, lightly patted his shoulders, and prepared to return to my residence. It’s been a long time since I’ve slept in my room. I felt my head spin. As expected I’d gotten tired after the battle.
Thus, my days of guarding came to an end.
I should have been glad that it had all been settled by the time the Coming-of-Age ceremony happened. After I’d slept today, I’d have to go to the preparations for that again from tomorrow onwards.
Thinking They really are slavedrivers, I staggered through the royal palace late at night.
Since then, I was worked so hard every day that I began thinking that the time spent guarding was more fun.
Tomorrow was finally the day of 「The First Prince’s Coming-of-Age Ceremony」. It was a joyful occasion, but the people behind the scenes were all thrown into utter confusion. Nevertheless, most of the preparations had been completed, and receiving the guests also went smoothly, though the Technological Order’s workload seemed like a looming mountain.
For the guarding incident, I received words of gratitude from the King too, but I bowed my head saying I was not worthy of them. Rather than me, it was Legato who should be thanked.
Even the Royal Knight Order and the Royal Palace Magic Order seemed to hold a debt of gratitude towards me, and their attitude towards me seemed to have changed a bit. Perhaps they felt chagrined just like the Royal Palace Order.
After all, since then I’ve not been able to have a peaceful slumber, and I have been pretty tired. I’d been using magic continuously for around a month or so, and thanks to that, my magic was unbalanced and I felt unwell. But still, when I thought about how once I got through tomorrow, I’d return to my usual days, I felt all right.
At dusk, when I’d return to the tower, since I knew that work would be pushed onto me, I went to the place I’d visit at times to play truant. It was that backyard bench where I’d had my first conversation with Legato.
The place was mostly deserted and difficult to see from the main path, just perfect for a hiding spot.
I let out a sigh and lay down with a plonk. I was tired. Even sitting seemed to be a hard task.
Since then, I’d seen Legato multiple times at meetings or in the Royal Palace, but the other party did not seem interested in having a conversation, and since I didn’t bother opening one, we returned to our previous relationship of being acquaintances.
Even though I frolicked about with him so much every night, I thought. But even from the other person’s viewpoint, it must have felt quite embarrassing: the cat you doted on turned out to be a colleague from work whom you had no acquaintance with, moreover a man of the same age. It must have been a great shock.
I giggled a bit, remembering the dumbfounded Legato when I told him the truth. Then my feelings changed to loneliness.
While thinking of such things in the midst of dozing off on the bench, I vaguely felt another person’s presence. I cracked my eyes open, only to see that someone was closer to me than I’d expected, surprising me. It was Legato.
As expected, this man is good at erasing his presence, I thought, still half asleep, and absentmindedly gazed at the man standing beside the bench.
「Apologies, did I wake you up?」
「…No, I was just playing truant.」
Legato made an inexplicable face in response. From the serious Legato’s viewpoint, what I’d said must have been disagreeable, but he said nothing. Seeing his expression, I, who was still half-asleep remembered how I felt when I was a cat.
I raised my body a bit and created some space on the edge of the bench that I occupied, pointing towards it. Legato made a face as if considering something, and, after seeing my finger and expression, sat down at that spot, saying 「Ah, Thank you.」.
I placed my head on top of that lap. I knew that Legato had gotten startled and tried to move his legs, but I ignored him. After all, it was more comfortable than directly placing my head on the hard bench. Also, it felt nostalgic, as I’d always dozed off on this lap when I was a cat.
「It was always like this when we were guarding, right?」
「…That was because Nidel-dono was a cat…」
I head Legato’s perplexed voice above my head, but he didn’t seem to reject it enough to get my head out of the way, so I relaxed on his lap and closed my eyes. Legato surely cared about me. We were the same age, and despite me being less important than him, he always used polite speech with me.
Basically, Legato used courteous speech with everyone other than his direct subordinates. I thought that such modesty, or should I call it seriousness, was good, but it created a sense of distance and made one feel undue formality.
Well, even I was polite to him to a level bordering on obnoxiousness.
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